Many countries, including the United States, the UK, and across Europe, are reporting the same thing – the COVID-19 pandemic has, by most measures, passed beyond the emergency response phase.
While daily life continues to adjust to the “new normal” and hybrid/remote work has become commonplace, this week we’ll be discussing the three trends that are likely here to stay and how to continue to use these trends to optimize your RIM program.
Paper has been dethroned as the default
Law firms have a reputation for being slow to change and behind the curve when it comes to adjusting to new technologies. The digital transformation of legacy paper record systems is no exception.
To be fair, it’s not just law firms that remain tied to paper. Every organization has a legal department or some area of responsibility that will be challenged when asked to reduce their reliance on paper.
These aren’t the marketing team’s slide presentations being printed out. These are usually high-risk, high-obligation records that originate in paper and must be kept for compliance purposes.
The trouble is implementing these digitization processes. Paperless might still be a pipe dream for some of these more challenging use cases, but adopting a paper-light approach that drastically reduces the use of paper, is absolutely achievable with today’s technology.
In a conversation with Access during a recent webcast, Jim Merrifield, Director of IG & Business Intake at law firm Robinson+Cole, discussed how he was grateful that the leadership team was already moving in the direction of digitizing their processes prior to the pandemic.
“In a strange way,” he observed, “the pandemic was the best thing for IG especially when it comes to ‘paper-light’. Law firms are used to working with a lot of paper. The tide may have been changing with different practice groups and things but [once COVID hit], it wasn’t really a choice anymore.”
While hands may have been forced, organizations still must rely on tried and tested change management principles in order to continue to succeed in a paper-light world. To learn more about change management best practices, check out our blog, Change Management: The Secret Ingredient to Improving Your RIM Program.
Digital processes picking up speed
McKinsey & Company reported that for many organizations, the pandemic had accelerated digital transformation plans for many companies by as many as seven years.
“[Because of the Pandemic],” Merrifield noted, “the rules have changed, requirements have changed. There has to be a better way of doing things.”
At the core of this is the difference between digitalization and merely digitizing. While these might seem like the same thing, the distinction is important.
Gartner defines digitization as taking an analog process and changing it to a digital form (like the transition from a check to a debit card) while digitalization is defined as the “use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities”.
A good example, in this case, would be the difference between calling a taxi station versus using a rideshare app. As you continue to complete digital transformation projects and digitize/digitalize processes, be sure you keep these five considerations in mind.
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The rise of electronic signatures
While it’s become increasingly rare for any state, province, or territory to mandate wet signatures for contracts, some exceptions do remain along with an ingrained resistance to that change.
However, as Merriman noted, “the world has embraced a digital way of working. We’re in that hybrid workspace where paper is no longer practical.”
Whether it’s in auto loans or mortgages, there has been a huge uptick in digital signatures being accepted just as much as wet ink signatures. “When it comes to digital signatures, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle,” MyDocSafe, a digital signature organization observed in a blog post. In fact, they continued, “a return to wet signatures seems unlikely, due to the fact that digital signatures are being found to benefit all parties involved due to the faster deal progression and more efficient workflows.”
Still, even with the trend toward digital signatures being the norm, it’s still important to understand the specific legal ramifications around them. You can learn more by checking out our guide: Going Paperless? Avoiding the Legal Pitfalls of Digitization.
You’ll notice that all three of these trends center on moving from an analog world into a digital one. While the pandemic was a tremendously unfortunate way to force organizations to make these shifts, in the long run, these trends will make organizations more resilient in the end.
If your organization is still working toward a more future-proofed information management program, our digital guide, Navigating Information Management In an Evolving Remote/Hybrid World, will guide you through building an information management program regardless of whether your team is remote or hybrid.